I believe in God. My religion is Protestant. I know that God is there, although I’ve never seen him.
I grew up in Uganda, in a family that believes in God. My grandmum was a strong Christian believer, and she always encouraged us to go to church. But not only her, most of the family members were in the church, most of them were in the choir. So I was also introduced in the same church choir, and we had many other activities, like fellowships, Bible discussions… And I really started enjoying it. All the people around the church whom I got to know, they were so kind and polite. I really felt that it was a good place for me to be. And that’s how I went on with serving God, and continued with what I learned during childhood.
As I’ve been studying, I’ve gotten to know many things that as a church we need to work on. Because I believe that there are a lot of genders and sexualities out there. I appreciate that the Bible says there is only man and woman, or wife and husband. But there are people with other genders who want to be who they are, but for whom that’s problematic because the church calls it, you know, sodomy. I believe everybody has a right to live the way they should be, as long as they’re not hurting anybody.
I did research on refugee male survivors of sexual violence in Uganda, because men are also raped in war. And they are in a very bad state. Because the religious institutions perceive the rape victims to be homosexuals, so they cannot access any health care or counselling. Their families leave them because they don’t want to live with a stigmatised homosexual. So I believe that the church – my church – should stop judging people before they get to know the details. Many people who are strong believers in church, they tend to judge people before they get to know the story. And I have a problem with that.
I wish I could go up to the church and talk about it and show them how it is. Many people feel different from the way they are looking. Should it be a crime? Should that person be killed? In my country, it is strongly forbidden, like a taboo, for a person to be of another gender or sexuality, so many people have been killed or arrested. It is happening. It was a risk for me to carry out this research.
Everything is still connected to the church. The church has done a lot to make sure that these messages are spread, that these are bad people. There are reverends who speak in church, who say, there are homosexuals out there, please if you know anyone in the community, go out there and beat them. It’s common in Uganda. I might not encourage the practice, okay, but everybody has a right, we are not to judge and kill people. That power is beyond us. If we truly believe in God, then we have to know that God is the judge. Only God holds the power to decide who should die. So if I go back to Uganda, I would like to meet the Religious Council, because it unites all the religious leaders: Muslims, Protestants, Catholics. To have a discussion about this.
I go to any church. I believe that everybody believes in the same God, so you may find me in a Catholic church, because I know they are praying to the same person. Even if it’s a mosque, I enter. My first year in school I went to a Muslim school. They just to pray like Muslims, and we were very few Christians, so we would just join them the way they pray. I went to this school because it was advertised a lot. It was just after primary school, and I saw the adverts on tv many times, and I talked to my parents and asked them, ‘let me go to this school’. Because they had resources, library, everything for me to study. It didn’t come to me that it would be a problem because they have a different religion. I believe everybody has their own beliefs, but still, no need to judge. So I went there, and had a good time, but after one year I changed school because that school was very far from my home.
Here [in the Netherlands], nobody asks me my religion. And in Uganda, maybe it happens when you want to get married. Parents are against marrying someone from another religion. Especially when the girl is Muslim; they want you to become a Muslim, to maintain the religion. Now the youth have developed this strategy: if the parents do not allow the marriage, they impregnate the daughter. So now, the father has no choice but to let the girl be with the boy who impregnated her. But if you just want to marry a person from another religion it’s very hard.